Childhood Cancer

Childhood Cancer

The liver

The liver is the body’s largest internal organ and one of its most complex. Located beneath the rib cage in the upper right part of the abdomen, this wedge-shaped organ is divided into two main lobes—right and left—and two smaller lobes (see Figure 3-1).

The liver is like a chemical refinery that operates 24 hours a day. It receives blood from both the hepatic artery and the portal vein, and it modifies substances contained in the blood that pass through it. For example, after food is digested and absorbed into the bloodstream, the liver metabolizes, or chemically changes, the food into forms that are easier for the rest of the body to use.

Another major function of the liver is to filter blood to remove harmful materials. The liver changes toxic substances, including some drugs, into material that can be easily eliminated from the body in urine and feces. The liver also produces bile, a greenish-brown fluid that is needed for proper digestion. Bile is stored in the gallbladder.

Figure 3-1: The liver

The liver performs hundreds of complex and necessary bodily functions, such as:

•  Producing, storing, and releasing glucose (blood sugar), which is a form of energy that keeps the body active.

•  Producing, storing, and releasing fat to help regulate the supply of fuel for the body.

•  Regulating the balance of many important hormones including adrenal, thyroid, and sex hormones.

•  Regulating the supply of essential minerals and vitamins, such as copper and iron.

•  Producing, excreting, and converting cholesterol into other important substances that the body needs.

•  Manufacturing key proteins, such as those used to transport other substances in the blood and those providing resistance to infection.

•  Making proteins that aid in the clotting of blood.

The liver has an amazing ability to regenerate, which allows large amounts of liver tissue to be removed without any major risk to the well-being of the child.